Back in the day when checking bags at the airport was not a luxury, travelers brought it all. Luggage was roomy! In fact, I have distinct memories of being able to climb into my parents’ suitcase, and fit my seven-year old self in there quite comfortably, along with my five-year old sister. These days, it would be hard to fit a pair of Chihuahuas into the typical rolling suitcase, and travelers need to get a whole lot pickier about what they pack.
For an urban visit, packing light is easy – good walking shoes plus a few versatile outfits that can go from museum to dinner, and you’re set. When your vacation involves one or more days of outdoor recreation and adventure, however, successful packing requires some serious thought and planning. Whether you are heading to the mountains, the woods, or the beach, having the right clothing and gear available can make or break your vacation.
Lodging at a vacation rental makes the clothing part easier, because laundry facilities are usually available in the home, so you can pack fewer items. Sweaty, muddy, dusty clothing from one day’s hike or bike outing can be freshened up for the next day’s adventure—trust me, your friends and family will thank you. You’ll also appreciate having access to laundry when you re-pack for the trip home, without needing to bag up your grimy adventurewear!
Planning what clothes to pack means thinking about the climate. Even in the summer, mountain towns experience a huge range of temperatures from morning through evening. Several thinner layers – such as a long sleeve thermal, a fleece, and a shell – can be just as warm as one large jacket, but take up less space, and are more adaptable to conditions. Can your shell serve as a rain jacket? Choose clothing that can do double duty (pants that zip off into shorts are a great example.)
In most cases, it’s the gear that really eats up space when packing for an adventure-filled vacation. Helmets, boots, snorkel masks, skis, boards, paddles, neoprene, binoculars, waders, fly rods… this is where the rubber meets the road when packing for a well-equipped trip. The trick is to decide which pieces to rent at your destination, and which are critical enough that you really would like to bring your own. There are no hard and fast rules, just personal preferences based on how you’d answer a few questions:
How many times will you use the gear? On past trips to Cozumel, I packed all my own snorkel gear: fins, gloves, booties, mask and snorkel. We snorkeled every day, it was great to have everything fit and work well. Recently we traveled to Cabo, and I knew we’d have only one day of snorkeling. I still packed the mask, but rented the rest of the gear.
How picky are you about fit? Some items are one-size-fits-all (ski poles, for example). Sometimes the normal sizes just don’t fit! This seems to be especially true for ski boots, because unhappy feet can spoil the best bluebird day ever. It’s worth making room or paying the extra luggage fee to BYOB—bring your own boots. When size doesn’t matter, like with waders for fly-fishing, by all means renting is a great option.
Is it available to rent? A few calls to local gear shops can help identify what is available. If you’re planning to bike, be sure to specify whether you’ll just be cruising flat forest roads, or if you’ll be riding hard on singletrack—the bikes are very different for each of those scenarios! Reserve the right sizes as well, and find out if the shop has helmets available.
One final packing tip: any day of outdoor recreation is better with a little picnic action on the summit or the sand. Plan ahead and pack (not in your carry-on, of course) a corkscrew, a cheese knife, and a can opener, or a multi-purpose tool with all three. Then toast to your grand adventure and your excellent packing skills!